Owlets are ringed after nesting in a Sandhurst owl box

Hussein Moyo from EcoSolutions rings an owlet with help from Luka Nathaniel.

An owl with owlets was spotted in a barn owl box, installed by EcoSolutions for a client in Sandhurst last year.

Junior ecologist Sara Orchardson said they were very excited when the client contacted them after seeing an owl in the box. “We went through late afternoon on 12 July to go and find out what was happening in the box.”

Two owlets in a cage ready to be ringed.

She said they we were very happy to find four barn owlets in the owl box. “We took the opportunity to give each owlet its own Safring [ring], so we can add the details of each owl to the Safring [South African Bird Ringing Unit] database which is run by the Avian Unit at the University of Cape Town. This provides us with the means to get information on owls if they are ever recovered.”

This is the second year that owlets have been raised in this owl box. “Owls faithfully return to their nesting sites each year, and it is wonderful to see an owl box used to rear multiple generations of owlets,” she said.

Orchardson said barn owls (tyto alba) are predominantly rodent feeders and are very beneficial in urban areas to suppress rodent populations. They strive to promote these owls in suburbs.

Hussein Moyo from EcoSolutions rings an owlet with help from Luka and Andriana Nathaniel.

“We believe that the key to an occupied owl box is to have the owl box serviced annually – even if the owl box has been previously occupied by owls. As there is a shortage of roosting sites for birds in Johannesburg, the owl boxes will attract the attention and fill the requirements for many cavity breeding and roosting residents,” Orchardson said.

She said it is fine for squirrels, Egyptian geese, genets and other birds to use it out of season. “However, these usurpers bring sticks, paper, litter and all sorts of things into the box. Unless these are removed, owls will not utilise the owl box to breed in.”

The owl box service allows the team to remove any paper, litter and other nesting material, give the owl box a coat of varnish and ensure that the owl box is in tip-top shape for new and returning owls looking for a nesting site.

An owl peeks out of an owl box in Sandhurst.

Do you have an owl box? Share your stories with us on the Sandton Chronicle Facebook page.

  AUTHOR
Pieter Dempsey

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